This past week was the week of the poetry workshop at Squaw Valley, and here at my house, a poetry weekend following that format. It was a wonderful weekend. I’m sure I’ll be posting something from the weekend soon–the work was exhilarating. Meanwhile, here’s a poem from a poet who has been part of the staff at Squaw Valley in years past:
your ribs are thick ridges
but you do not eat.
your eyes are so tired
but you do not sleep.
you say you want to feel belief
but you do not pray.
fruit out of dirt
is your proof.
folding into sleep
is the miracle. Continue reading “Monday again” →
Today’s poem is by John Cage, who certainly would have appreciated the Solstice event at Chapel of the Chimes, and who has captured the essence of the creative process in this little poem:
When you start working
Everybody is in your studio
The Art World,
And above all, your own ideas—
All are there.
But as you continue,
They start leaving,
One by one,
And you are left completely alone.
Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.
Two years ago, I wrote about the annual Solstice celebration at Julia Morgan’s Chapel of the Chimes (aka Garden of Memory), a columbarium in Oakland. I went again this year, to hear the many permutations of New Music.
Continue reading “Solstice again” →
This morning Larry read me exerts form the obituary of Julian Koenig, who had a stellar career in advertising. You may have heard his daughter interview him on This American Life.
Mr. Koenig came up with the famous “Think Small” campaign that introduced the VW bug and was key to changing the way Americans think about cars. He also worked with one of the first environmental groups, renaming their original idea of for a national education day about environmental issues, Environmental Teach In, to Earth Day. This was in 1970.
“He offered a bunch of possible names–Earth Day, Ecology Day, Environment Day, E Day–but he made it quite clear that we would be idiots if we didn’t choose Earth Day,” said the group’s spokesperson. Koenig noted that his inspiration was (at least in part) thatEarth Day rhymes with birthday. Continue reading “Are all professions deceptive?” →
And here, in answer to Simone’s request, and as a bonus for poetry Monday, a video of my reading as part of the Marin County Poetry Center’s Traveling Show (don’t worry, camera work improves as it goes along).
Gail Entrekin edits an online poetry journal called Canary that focuses on poets’ “engagement with the natural world.” If you like the poems I post, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading her excellent selection of work. Here is a poem of Gail’s. I like its fearless exploration of aging, its unapologetic ambivalence, and especially the ending:
Before Making Love
Finally, we tell the truth: how death’s been
hovering at the door, muttering threats and banging
in the long night, how reason takes flight
like a circling falcon over its nest of flapping
fear, how you sometimes wander out into the ocean fog,
how I am so angry I cannot speak, that you
who took the vow, would drift down the beach
accept the icy water, leave me to lift the heavy boat
lock the oars, paddle the hard night, looking
for you; leave me to rake the sand,
build the park, martial the troops, while
you stand down there, your pant legs sloshing
in the water, smiling at the crows,
not helping, not helping at all
with the work of life, just because
you are leaving soon. And I don’t want Continue reading “Monday poem” →
I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets–for me the Williams Sonoma or Chef’s Catalog is a kind of kitchen porn. Many of them aren’t worth the trouble, but I have two onion gadgets that really work: the onion keeper and the onion dicer.
The onion keeper I picked up one day in the supermarket. It’s a plastic onion-shaped container that opens in the middle with a twist. You put an open onion in it, twist it shut, and your onion is saved without smelling up the fridge.
The dicer has three sets of blades, two of which (rough dice and fine dice) can handle onions. There’s also a slicer blade, which I sometimes use for mushrooms. But it’s the onion dicing that is the real timesaver, especially when you have multiple onions to dice.
Set a half or a quarter of the onion flat side down on the dicer and pushed down the lid with your palm.
The machine gives a satisfying whump and you have instant, perfectly uniform chunks of onion.
Kitchen magic! It does for onions what my corn stripper does for corn kernels. This is a little plastic module with teeth at one edge that you run along an ear of corn to remove the kernels. Continue reading “Gadgets, writing, and domestic tranquility” →
Brenda Hillman, who so generously allowed me to audit her class last fall, has just won the Griffin Poetry Prize, a very big deal in the poetry world, for her most recent book, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire. (Her photo here was taken by Brett Hall Jones, who manages the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, a poetic feat in it’s own right.)
The judges’ citation starts: “Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire concludes Brenda Hillman’s tetralogy on the four elements of classical thought. She steers wildly but ably through another day of teaching, a ceremonial equinox, the distress of bee colony collapse; space junk, political obstruction, military drones, administrative headaches, and everything in between. The ‘newt under the laurel’ and ‘the herring purring through the eelgrass’ don’t escape her arc of acuity.”
This poem is from one of her early books, Bright Existence, and it remains one of my favorites, the way it mixes the daily with the darker, ongoing undercurrent of reflection (what they call “steering wildly but ably”) and probably also because the terrain is so familiar to me:
Continue reading “Brenda Hillman on Monday” →
Going through old files on my computer, trying to organize–organization, or the Platonic ideal of it, always just outside my grasp. The process is extraordinarily time consuming, good work for foggy mornings.
In the process, I found this poem of Jack Gilbert’s I copied two years ago. It beautifully articulates a world view I share, except for the “what God wants” phrase. I think I’d leave that out and just say “We enjoy our lives. Otherwise” and go on from there. It seems I’m always editing Gilbert just a tad, too bad he’s not around to argue with me:
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
Bur we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women Continue reading “Spring cleaning” →